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Study Finds Eating Red Meat Contributes to Risk of Early Death

A study of more than 500,000 Americans over 40 shows that those who consume the equivalent of at least a hamburger a day have a 30 percent increased chance of dying during the next 10 years, mostly from heart disease and cancer. Cold cuts, sausage and other processed meats also increased the risk (Archives of Internal Medicine, March 2009). This agrees with many other studies showing that eating meat from mammals is associated with increased risk for heart attacks, arthritis, and several types of cancer. The study found that eating fish, chicken, turkey and other poultry decreased the risk of premature death.

Most authorities still attribute the high mortality in meat eaters to the saturated fats and cholesterol in meat. This makes little sense since 1) poultry is also a rich source of saturated fats and does not increase premature death, cancer or heart attacks; 2) people who eat a diet rich is saturated fats from palm, palm kernel and coconut oils are not at increased risk for premature death; and 3) eggs and shell fish are extremely rich sources of cholesterol and they are not associated with premature death. I believe that the most likely explanation for the increased risk for heart attacks and premature death in meat eaters is inflammation from the glycoprotein Neu5Gc; see my reports from November 9 and November 16, 2008


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is caffeine safe when I exercise in hot weather?

Just about everyone agrees that caffeine can help you exercise intensely longer, but a major concern was that it could raise body temperature and increase urination to harm performance in the heat. However, in one study doses of caffeine as high as 420 mg did not raise body temperature in the heat and did not impair hot-weather performance because it is not a diuretic during exercise (Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, March 2009). That's four cups of coffee or eight soft drinks. However, caffeine is a stimulant that can harm people with irregular heart beats, blocked coronary arteries, high blood pressure, and other conditions that you may not know you have.

When you compete in endurance events that last more than an hour, you go at the fastest pace that allows enough oxygen to reach your muscles to prevent a large build up of lactic acid. However, when your muscles start to run out of their stored sugar, you burn more fat which requires more oxygen and you slow down for the same effort. So anything that preserves your muscle sugar during competition will give you greater endurance. Caffeine causes your muscles to burn more fat and therefore preserve the stored muscles sugar, so it allows you to move very fast for a longer period of time. That's why the vast majority of cyclists in races such as the Tour de France use caffeine.


Update on vitamin D:

The blood levels of vitamin D in Americans dropped significantly from 1994 to 2004 (Archives of Internal Medicine, March 2009). This is frightening because of the association of low levels of vitamin D and premature death, heart attacks, strokes, and at least 17 different cancers. The authors blame the drop on campaigns aimed at reducing sun exposure because of the fear of developing skin cancer. They also note that people who rely on supplements rather than sunlight are usually deficient because the current recommended doses of vitamin D supplements are way too low (200 IU per day from birth to age 50, 400 international units per day from age 51 to 70 and 600 international units from age 71 and up). It is impossible to meet your needs for vitamin D with foods.

To check for vitamin D deficiency, you need a blood test called D3. If it is below 75 nmol/L, you are deficient and should expose your skin to sunlight or take at least 2000 IU of vitamin D3 twice a day for as long as it takes to raise your blood level of D3 to 75 nmol/L.

Basal cell skin cancers (the most common type) are caused by excessive cumulative exposure to sunlight. Melanoma skin cancers can be caused by a single sunburn. Therefore everyone should go out in the sun, but they should wear hats and use sun screens on the most frequently exposed areas such as the top of the ears, face, and back of the hands. The legs are probably the safest place to expose your skin to sunlight.


Recipe of the Week:

Split Pea and Barley Stew

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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